ErinD's blog

Are you ready to say goodbye to your state forests? Tom Corbett is.

Over a third of Pennsylvania’s public lands – our state forests and parks – are already slated to be drilled for Marcellus Shale gas. Many of the trees will be chopped down; roads will be built; noisy, dirty rigs will go up. It’s not a maybe, it’s already on the books – private drilling companies now hold leases on 725,000 acres of our state forest lands. That includes places like Loyalsock State Forest and Tioga State Forest, which abuts Pine Creek Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Even state parks as well known as Ricketts Glen State Park, with it mesmerizing series of waterfalls, and Ohiopyle, with its booming whitewater industry, are in danger.

Those who want the state to lease even more land for gas drilling say the impacts will be small, and that we need the revenue to make up the hole in Pennsylvania’s budget. But those who know and are charged with managing those lands – the folks at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – couldn’t be clearer: “There are zero State Forest Land acres suitable for gas leasing involving surface disturbance,” the final slide of their extensive GIS analysis announces. If you haven’t flipped through their prophetic images of the loss of PA’s primitive forests, you should.

DCNR insists that no more of our public lands can be sacrificed without damaging our state’s biodiversity, the “wild character” of the forests, and even our timber industry. That’s why outgoing Governor Rendell signed an executive order last October to halt additional leasing of public lands. But that won’t stop Tom Corbett from plowing forward into the wild lands that many of us hold dear.

Only 35 gas wells have been drilled so far on PA’s public lands, but another 10,000 are likely within the next 30 years. Better enjoy those forests before it’s too late, unless we can figure out a way to keep Rendell’s moratorium on new state forest leases alive.

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